Feral Cats Help Control Rat Populations

Killing Australia's feral cats

It seems that Australians like to kill their feral cats. Don’t kill them. It won’t work. Do more research, read this article and start thinking.

This is an important article. Many years ago, as a layman and not a scientist, I made the common sense point that feral cats could be useful to people and so did a visitor who called himself: DoctorM – see his short post. The feral cat could be our friend. I remarked that feral cats could be keeping down rat populations and if the feral cat was eradicated, as many people propose, we could see a surge in rat populations and the consequential impact on society and native mammals that would result. Rats are predators.

In a very comprehensive study of wildlife on many islands off the coast of Australia, where sailors had introduced: black rats, cats and foxes, the surprising conclusion (to the researchers) was that cats help in the survival of some species of native wildlife on these islands because they preyed on black rats which are more destructive of wildlife than the cats. The net result or overall outcome is that the presence of feral cats can be beneficial, which is the exact opposite to what government scientists in Australia have preached for years.

The impact of the feral cat on wildlife species is complicated. The feral cat is now part of the ecosystem and has perhaps become a new wild cat species in Australia, where for a long time, there has been a rather simplistic and crude approach to the feral cat, which is, by-and-large, a hated animal in Australia. The approach has been to kill it as fast as possible. The cry from government is to eradicate it as it kills native species.

But in doing so the research indicates that it could well make matters worse. It reminds me, in fact, of the Great Plague (1665–66) of London, during which it was ordered that the community cats of the city had to be killed because it was believed that they spread the plague. It transpired that the plague was being spread by rats and in killing cats the plague spread faster and with more ferocity.

What the researchers found was that on islands where sailors had only introduced black rats, the extinction rates of native mammals were higher than on islands where the rat, cat and fox had been introduced by sailors. The differences are quite stark. The extinction rates (the rate of killing of native species, to put it simply) were 15 per cent to 30 per cent where only rats were present. The figure dropped to 10 percent when cats were also present. Cats were killing other predators, specifically the rat.

The research also came to a conclusion on the impact of feral cats on native wildlife generally. This is important. The population size of mammals that are native to the islands were only reduced slightly when cats were brought to the islands. So, feral cats, wild roaming cats, do have an impact on native species. They are bound to because they are wonderful predators but it is far less than previously “estimated. Scientists do have a bad habit of making very poor and biased guesses or guesstimates as to the impact of feral cats on native species.

So, at last, the truth is out. Common sense reigns and some light has been shone on the truth: the presence of feral cats can be beneficial to some native species.

As a result feral cat haters need to wake up and shape up. Feral cat haters and bird conservationists need to put away their bias and their prejudices and start to think more fairly, logically and sensibly. The feral cat is not the enemy that they believe it is and in any case the feral cat hater should remind himself that it is people who created this resourceful predator.

Associated page: How feral cats affect wildlife

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Feral Cats Help Control Rat Populations — 28 Comments

  1. Yes more proof that cat haters are ignorant and biased and desperately use any argument they can to back themselves up and to try to convince us cat lovers that we are in the wrong.
    What is wrong with these people that they can’t live and let live?
    They are closed minded, cold hearted and intolerant and obviously have never done any real research for themselves.

  2. Please explain to the class how an animal, the domesticated cat in this case, which is perfectly capable of carrying and transmitting the plague all on its own could have prevented the plague in Europe…….

    Rest deleted because it is pure hogwash written by a troll.

  3. Can’t be bothered to read all that long boring diatribe Woody,got better things to do.
    I agree with Micheal and Ruth,cat hating idiots need to do some serious research.

    • Rose, I have decided to cut Woody out completely. He never talks sense. He’s just a troll. The objective is not to write useful things but to wind good people up.

      You won’t see a Woody comment again. There may be one for a short while before I delete it, but that is all.

      • Good thinking Micheal if he gets deleted he won’t have the satisfaction of thinking we are reading his rubbish and that will really frustrate him.
        I don’t believe he kills cats anyway it’s all in his sick mind.

      • Good for you, Michael. You have been incredibly tolerant. His/her personal attacks are way over the edge. And, I’m sure you even shielded some of them from us. Thank you.

        • Yes he went too far. There is nothing you can do with him. He is bad and a pure troll so he becomes irritating. You won’t see him again and, yes, I did delete lots of his comments. You have to they are so barmy.

  4. Island ecosystems and continental ecosystems do not equate very well when discussing native wildlife and invasive species. The thing that needs to be looked at, on which invasive species to remove first, is dependent on the native predators that you have which are already in existence. (E.g.: Where I live (a continental ecosystem), there were many dozens of native predators that had been displaced (read starved-to-death) from cats destroying their only foods, which were more than happy to return to the area to keep all prey species back in balance once every last cat of hundreds were shot dead and buried. So the 100% eradication of cats was an easy and painless fix for all native species. All is right with the world once again where I live. I estimate that about 1 returning, or 1 never-seen-before, native species has been (re)populating the lands around me PER DAY for nearly 4 years now since every last invasive-species cat has been gone that long. That’s a LOT of native species that cats had extirpated from their native habitats. I still can’t believe how well and how fast nature has healed itself once I did my part to help it.)

    Do your lands have a more rodent-specific predator than cats? (Cats being a man-made predator with the largest prey-base of any animal on earth. They destroy anything that moves, whether for food or not, usually just for senseless play.) Then it will be safe to remove cats first. By employing a native species that is more targeted to the other destructive invasive species, you will get an expansion of those smaller invasive prey animals at first, but then the native predator will have so much more resources to help repopulate themselves after the cats are gone. Then if your native predators cannot help to attain the desired effect fast enough, you must then find other effective methods to help your native predators remove the smaller invasive species. Even if that means forced breeding programs to increase the populations of native predators.

    Predator/prey cycles are just that. One rises, the other falls, the first falls, the second rises again. The problem with cats is that ALL your native wildlife suffers from their existence. They even starve out those larger animals which are not even prey species of theirs. Even destroying native vegetation by destroying those smaller birds and animals that act as seed-dispersers, pollinators, and pest control for native plants. Cats can and will wipe-out whole ecosystems eventually if given enough time.

    If your closed ecosystem (island) does not have a native predator that can take out some of the smaller invasive species then you’ll have to start at the bottom of the invasive-species collective and work your way backward (or concurrently) until all the cats are destroyed as well.

    • Many people voice their opinions here and are welcome to do so if they are respectful and it is clear that they are stating OPINIONS.
      Woody, you make comments as if they are FACTUAL. They are without merit if you have no evidentiary support. Therefore, I find your purpose here is just to regurgitate the same rubbish over and over and over.

  5. hee hee getting notified of replies from the moron but not reading them as they will not be worth it but laughing my socks off at the 5 cents mounting up.
    Keep up the good work Woody you are talking to yourself as I don’t give a damn what you may be saying.

    • Yes they do Rose, I can’t be bothered to read long comments either from people who just spill out their hatred and try to get the better of Michael, that will NEVER happen!

  6. Well that IS strange because I just did a google search and guess what came up at the very top:

    ‘Pictures of Cats | PoC — An online illustrated cat encyclopedia with …

    pictures-of-cats.org/‎
    The best pictures of cats on the internet and much more besides’
    And a whole long list of the contents.

    Grasping at straws? I don’t think so, in fact PoC is the best cat site on the internet.

    • Dead sites from 15 years ago will still show up on Google if you search for them directly, but PoC doesn’t show up on any generic searches for cat information anymore. I use old links from my bookmarks to see what this place is up to once in a great while. The ones posting on this site are the only ones left. You’re like the last partially-firing brain-cells in a dead body.

      • Woody you are just getting some fun out of trying to wind people up but it does not work. You are wasting your time. You are just a pathetic troll.

        PoC does not rely on Google searches because people come here without searching and secondly many pages rank very highly in Google searches. For example search for “cat health facts for kids”. Search in Yahoo for “Poodle cat”. There are hundreds of other examples.

        • Well said Michael, Woody is just another pathetic cat hater trying to bias information and statistics to suit himself.
          One thing for sure he would never have the brains or commitment to run a highly successful cat website like you do.

          • Well said. He is a classic troll. He just gets enjoyment out of trying to upset people, which I find bizarre. I think he has to be a dysfunctional loner living with his mother or something like that. He never changes what he says. He is like a stuck record.

            • If Woody knew he was right and had a good explanation/argument to show for it he wouldn’t even feel the need to bother with all this freaking out – infact he’d have plenty of mainstream info around to back him up. But he doesn’t – so he needs to shout forever about the details, feeding off one in a million examples. These are getures of some kind of desperation to make us understand that what he is saying might be possible. But even if it was possible, in the end it’s still not true, and he has even had the respect of being listened to for a little while over it as well – without the desired effect I guess. Keep shouting Woody.

              For every comment Woody makes I will donate 25cents to charity. Michael we can work this out at the end of the month.

            • Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day. I think Woody might be a clock going backwards to ensure no correct time can be given.

  7. I agree Michael, you have been very tolerant and he’s gone too far lately with his insults to you and his nasty mocking comments to others. He’s just a waste of space.

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